24 January 2011

Joseph Arend - The Runaway Slave

In 1816, three slaves from a farm in the Sneeuwberg escaped to the Orange River. The Landrost of Graaff-Reinet Andries Stockenström, investigated the matter, as he believed that the plot had concerned more than just those three and discovered that
  • “the slaves of ... field cornet [Andries Burger] and his brother Schalk Burger had for some time back been planning such a scheme, proposed by one of those now absent, who had been enticed thereto by some Bastards who had visited Graaff- Reinet, with a party of missionaries some time before, and had promised him a safe retreat where he never again would be found; but the remainder not being able to procure horses were left behind, as the principals fearing that their plot would be discovered, would wait no longer.”
At the same time, Stockenström believed that there were several other slaves who had escaped from the colony and who had been planning to join the Tswana but found that the latter were so exasperated by the raids of Coenraad de Buys and other fugitives from the colony that they would not accept any escaped slaves into their ranks. Stockenström therefore allowed three burghers to go to the Griquas to recover these slaves, and wrote to the missionary at Griqua Town, William Anderson, to persuade him to return the slaves to them.
In the event they had little success. One of the slaves who had escaped from Andries Burger later achieved a certain amount of fame. Indeed he was one of the two runaways to the north, of whom a certain amount is known. His name was Joseph Arend and he was later to become Robert Moffat's first convert. He had been born at the Cape in about 1781 and trained as a builder and thatcher, after the manner of the Cape interior. By his mid-thirties, Burger allowed him a certain amount of independence. For instance, he was hired out as a servant to John Campbell during his first itineration through the South African mission field. The relative independence of a skilled tradesman, partially at least the master of his own time, could not easily be reconciled with the discipline a slave-owner wished to impose on his property. It was, he later recalled, 'severe treatment from his master [that] had determined him to abscond beyond the limits of the colony'. He described it as a harrowing experience:

  •  He was two months on the journey from his master's house, north of Graaff Reynet, till he reached the Great Orange river, seventeen days of which he lived on the bark of mimosa tree. His strength was so reduced by hunger that he could only proceed very slowly. On the 17th day he thought he must have died had he not shot a Guinea fowl. On reaching a Coranna kraal, on the Great River, he was so exhausted that for eleven days he was hardly able to move from the spot on which he lay down. The Corannas trented him kindly, and he remained with them six months.
At this stage, living in all probability on the middle reaches of the Orange, around modern Bethulie, Arend was out of reach of organized Griqua power, as the Griquas did not move to Philippolis for another decade. Nevertheless, when he heard that the Griquas had sent three escaped slaves back to the colony, he decided to make sure he remained out of their grasp. Moreover, he had evidently stolen a gun and probably, despite his description of the journey, a horse - something that Campbell with his evangelical rectitude did not mention - and preferred to make better use of it, and his various skills, than was possible in the precarious, uncertain and essentially poverty-stricken life of the IKora. Perhaps, in addition, he had already met Coenraad de Buys, the giant Afrikaner frontier man who at this time was moving north from the Lang Kloof to Transorangia with the clan he had himself propagated. This was largely because, it would seem, his trading activities with the Xhosa had gone sour on him, as the customers to whom he had given goods on credit had reneged on him and his Cape Town backers were now dunning him. At all events, the two, Joseph Arend and Coenraad de Buys, with the latter's adherents, formed a formidable partnership in the dangerous business of interior elephant hunting, trading and raiding. Arend was soon able to amass a considerable quantity of ivory, but because neither he nor Buys could sell directly to the colony, they made an abortive attempt to open up trade links with Delagoa Bay (Maputo). In time, though, Buys disappeared and died, while Arend, with his stock of ivory and cattle, settled down near the new mission station of Kuruman.

Unlike many of the runaways, Arend had not rejected all aspects of colonial culture. Rather he wished to gain full acceptance into it - a far-sighted decision with his progeny in mind. That and no doubt a genuine religious calling - for there were few whose evidences of conversion satisfied the fastidious Moffat, the strictest of all missionaries in this regard - led him first to build the mission house and church in Kuruman and then to be received into the church as Moffat's first full convert. But his 'owner' was also to be satisfied. Through the mediation of the traveler George Thompson, Arend used some of the ivory he had collected to buy himself free, for 1,500 Rixdollars.38 Within the orbit of colonial South Africa, even far beyond its borders, property rights still had to be respected even by those men and women who were the property.

Source: Cape Of Torments - Robert Moss

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